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1When the noise of the crowd surrounding the council had subsided, Holofernes, the ranking general of the Assyrian forces, said to Achior, in the presence of the whole throng of foreigners, of the Moabites, and of the Ammonite mercenaries: 2“Who are you,* Achior and the mercenaries of Ephraim, to prophesy among us as you have done today, and to tell us not to fight against the people of Israel because their God shields them? Who is God beside Nebuchadnezzar? He will send his force and destroy them from the face of the earth. Their God will not save them;a 3but we, the servants of Nebuchadnezzar, will strike them down with one blow, for they will be unable to withstand the force of our cavalry. 4We will overwhelm them with it, and their mountains shall be drunk with their blood, and their plains filled with their corpses. Not a trace of them shall survive our attack; they will utterly perish. So says King Nebuchadnezzar, lord of all the earth. For he has spoken, and his words will not be in vain. 5As for you, Achior, you Ammonite mercenary, for saying these things in a moment of perversity, you will not see my face after today, until I have taken revenge on this people that came out of Egypt. 6Then at my return, the sword of my army or the spear of my attendants will pierce your sides, and you will fall among their wounded. 7My servants will now conduct you to the hill country, and leave you at one of the cities beside the passes. 8You will not die until you are destroyed together with them. 9If you still harbor the hope that they will not be taken, then there is no need for you to be downcast.b I have spoken, and not one of my words will fail to be fulfilled.”
10Then Holofernes ordered the servants who were standing by in his tent to seize Achior, conduct him to Bethulia, and hand him over to the Israelites. 11So the servants seized him and took him out of the camp into the plain. From the plain they led him up into the hill country until they reached the springs below Bethulia.
12When the men of the city saw them, they seized their weapons and ran out of the city to the top of the hill, and all the slingers kept them from coming up by hurling stones at them. 13So, taking cover below the hill, they bound Achior and left him lying at the foot of the hill; then they returned to their lord.
Achior in Bethulia.* 14The Israelites came down from their city and found him, untied him, and brought him into Bethulia. They placed him before the rulers of the city, 15who in those days were Uzziah,* son of Micah of the tribe of Simeon, and Chabris, son of Gothoniel, and Charmis, son of Melchiel.c 16They then convened all the elders of the city, and all their young men, as well as the women, gathered in haste at the place of assembly. They placed Achior in the center of the people, and Uzziah questioned him about what had happened. 17He replied by giving them an account of what was said in the council of Holofernes, and of all his own words among the Assyrian rulers, and of all the boasting threats of Holofernes against the house of Israel.
18At this the people fell prostrate and worshiped God,* and they cried out: 19“Lord, God of heaven, look at their arrogance! Have mercy on our people in their abject state, and look with favor this day on the faces of those who are consecrated to you.” 20Then they reassured Achior and praised him highly. 21Uzziah brought him from the place of assembly to his home, where he gave a banquet for the elders. That whole night they called upon the God of Israel for help.
* [6:2] Who are you: repeated by Judith in 8:12 to the officials of Bethulia and modified in 12:14 in her response to Bagoas’ invitation on Holofernes’ behalf. The question, “Who is God?” motivates the entire narrative. Holofernes defends Nebuchadnezzar; Judith defends the Lord.
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